China’s top three tennis players arrived for the Pan Pacific Open women’s tournament in Japan even as a blazing political row between the two countries continues to rage.
China had withdrawn its badminton players from last week’s Japan Open as tempers flared over disputed islands, putting both nations on red alert.
However, former French Open champion Li Na, Zheng Jie and Peng Shuai were all scheduled to play, Zheng and Peng in first-round matches in Tokyo today.
None of the trio hit a ball in anger on yesterday’s opening day, when torrential rain halted play outside, with center court matches played under a closed roof.
Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova progressed to the second round, the 12th seed beating Spaniard Anabel Medina-Garrigues 6-3, 7-6.
Fourteenth seed Roberta Vinci struggled against Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova before the Italian came through 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, who has slipped to 24th in the rankings since topping the women’s game in 2008, had less trouble reaching the second round.
The Serbian looked sharp on the Tokyo hardcourt as she ousted Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-3, 6-3 under floodlights.
Nine of the world’s top 10 are taking part in the US$2.16 million Pan Pacific tournament, with only US Open champion Serena Williams missing the WTA premier five event.
Tensions between China and Japan are in danger of boiling over because of a bitter flare-up over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Japan pulled out of the second leg of the Asian Sevens Series in Shanghai amid safety fears, while a Japanese cycling team were booted out of a race in China.
Li, who received a first-round bye, faced the press yesterday, but blanked all questions on the territorial flare-up, which shows little sign of abating.
The Japanese government’s decision to nationalize three of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) has triggered angry protests across China, with many turning violent.
Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki dropped just one game against Kaia Kanepi in the lop-sided final of the Korea Open yesterday for her first WTA title of the year.
The top-seeded Dane, currently ranked 11th, took just over an hour for a 6-1, 6-0 victory over the Estonian, who had beaten her in the third round of French Open earlier this year.
“I just want to build up for the next season, and it’s been a long season, so I want to have a holiday and relax,” the 22-year-old told reporters after winning the 19th WTA title of her career. “I don’t think about ranking. I’m just happy I won the tournament. I would like to enjoy that. I want to be positive, and that’s what I’m thinking about right now.”